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Athabasca University

Frequently Asked Questions

What can I do with a degree in Women's and Gender Studies?

The answer to this frequently asked question is “just about anything.”

Women's and Gender Studies graduates go on to successful occupations in teaching, social work, criminal justice, health care, law, librarianship, policing, music, rehabilitation medicine, journalism, career counselling, union officer, international aid work, human resources, banking, and investment counselling. Additional education may be required in certain cases. For example, teachers and lawyers must hold degrees in education and law, respectively, in addition to their BA.

Bachelor of Arts: Women's and Gender Studies Major (4-Year)

What job can I get with a University Certificate in Counselling Women?

The University Certificate in Counselling Women (UC:CW) was specifically designed for those who work directly with women in crisis intervention. The program applies feminist theory to the practice of counselling women with those settings in mind. However, nurses, teachers, social workers, managers, and sales people, for example, may also benefit from studies concentrating on women. The UC:CW will increase their awareness of issues affecting women's lives and their effectiveness in working with them. For some, the UC:CW may fulfil those needs and also be the first step toward a Bachelor of Arts in Women's and Gender Studies or another discipline. For others it may be the first step toward a career in counselling which usually requires at least a master's degree. Those wishing to do so will also need to meet the professional requirements of, for example, social workers or psychologists. For information on professional counselling certification, contact the professional associations in your province or territory or visit the AU Website below:

University Certificate: Counselling Women

Why do women choose distance education?

The Third Shift: Women Learning Online (2001)
by Cheris Kramarae
published by the American Association of University Women

Women have historically predominated among distance education students, particularly in the Liberal Arts and Sciences. With women making up about 63 percent of our students, Athabasca University is typical. But as distance learning goes online the issues women face juggling home, work and school become more complex. The Third Shift explores these issues among American students and found some interesting results. What follows is a summary of this study, commissioned by the American Association of University Teachers, and based on interviews with over 500 women and men. You might recognize yourself in some of the report's findings.

Why do students go online to learn?

About one-third of the respondents in this study were working on a degree online. The second largest group of respondents were studying online to improve career opportunities. A third group were life-long learners, taking courses for interest or pleasure. The smallest group were taking courses online for economic reasons. They could not afford the expenses involved in attending college or university full time.

Classroom vs. online learning

When asked, almost half of the respondents in this study said that they preferred distance education over the classroom. Their reasons were primarily pragmatic. They especially liked the flexibility of distance education that allowed them to achieve their education and career goals while working and looking after their family.

The time crunch

Women especially liked being able to control their own time and coordinate competing demands of work, school and home responsibilities. Online learning saves time, costs and the hassle of travel or lengthy commutes. As one respondent explained, “when it comes to education, time may be a more precious commodity than money for some … women” (p. 11).

AU students report an similar approach to distance education and frequently mention flexibility as one of things they most value in distance education. Like Kramarae's respondents, AU students also note the importance of being able to work at their own pace, without schedule restrictions.

Online learning

Online learning is a challenging way to pursue post-secondary education and it is not for everyone. The women in Kramarae's study who reported a preference for traditional classroom learning cited its social atmosphere and face-to-face encounters as a primary reason. Kramarae states that “a major lingering concern (of her study) is that many students do not feel they have a choice about the educational delivery method.” Many women reported that they must take online courses in order to successfully manage their other responsibilities (p. 14).

But others saw distance education as providing equal opportunities. As one respondent said, “ [t]o deny an online education would be to deny education to someone based on a handicap. The handicap may be lack of transportation, childcare, or even a ‘handicap’ on the part of an institution [with] a limited number of faculty, courses, and programes” (p. 15).

The digital divide

Like similar studies, Kramarae found that currently, distance learning is used disproportionately by the relatively well resourced. The situation is much the same in Canada. More and more Canadians are going online, but studies show hidden barriers. Computer equipment can be inadequate for online courses and conflicts among family members over computer use usually do not appear in studies that assess household use of computers (p. 27). The need for upgrades and improvements can eat into a family's budget but some women reported that what they saved on child care expenses by studying at home covered online computer costs (p. 28).


Age has long been a factor in distance education. Historically, students in distance education are older than classroom based learners. In the US, 60 to 75 percent of adult students are women. Many of the respondents in this study indicated that because they are older than the typical college student, they feel more comfortable online then on campus.


Overall, women predominate in distance education because it provides them with the flexibility they need to juggle school, home, work, family and other needs and responsibilities. We still have much to learn about how gender mediates women's experiences as distance learners, creating hidden barriers to equal access. One interesting result of Kramarae's study shows that women study later at night while most men study between 4:00 and 8:00 p.m.

The report's key recommendations include:
  • Expand financial aid programs to support part-time students currently unable to qualify because they are taking small course loads.
  • Involve more women administrators, teachers, and students in the planning process for online courses.
  • Educate policy-makers concerning the difficulties faced by working mothers who are seeking to continue their formal education through distance learning.
  • Broadly disseminate information on distance learning to reach populations of women—for example, welfare-to-work participants or older women—unlikely to visit traditional learning sites for information.
  • Treat distance learning students as responsible and intelligent beings, not as passive educational consumers.

Updated May 17 2018 by Student & Academic Services

AU, CANADA'S OPEN UNIVERSITY, is an internationally recognized leader in online and distance learning.